National Scene

March 6, 2020 - Volume 40 Issue 9

National Scene

Coronavirus Outbreak

CNN (3/2, Andone) reports school districts nationwide are “preparing for the possibility their own communities will see confirmed cases of the coronavirus.” Many school leaders “have said they’re in touch with their state and local health departments, which will advise school officials on best practices and next steps as the outbreak goes on.” Districts are also reviewing and updating their infectious disease response plans, many of which were put in place during the 2009 H1N1 flu epidemic. Additionally, some schools “may be forced to implement social distancing in an effort to prevent an outbreak,” which could mean spreading students out in a classroom setting. The possibility of closures “raises questions about how schools can continue teaching students without a prolonged interruption.” Many districts provide laptop computers for students to take him, which would make it easier to conduct classes online.

Dan Domenech, executive director of the American Association of School Administrators told USA Today (3/3, Richards), “Everybody is in a state of alert.” He said his organization has advised superintendents to notify parents of their districts’ emergency operations plans that may be carried out of the virus spreads. He said, “Last week I saw some districts had sent out messages to families that were pretty mild — like, there’s not much to be concerned about, this may not happen. That’s not happening anymore. Now it’s absolutely something to worry about and it’s absolutely going to happen, it’s just a matter of when.”

Education Week (3/2, Lieberman) outlines six critical steps K-12 leaders should follow to manage coronavirus if it emerges: defer to health department protocols; develop a tentative plan for how school closures will work; monitor abnormal absenteeism patterns; clean and sterilize high-touch surfaces routinely; create communication plans for staff, parents, and students; and consider limiting people’s exposure to large groups of people. The New York (NY) Times (2/29, Grose) also published advice on how parents can talk about coronavirus with their children, starting with first processing your own anxiety.


EdSource (3/2, Jones) reports, “California’s physical fitness test, a fixture in schools for 25 years, is set to be eliminated because it measures students’ body fat, too often inciting shame and anxiety among students, under a proposal by Gov. Gavin Newsom.” However, critics “cautioned that eliminating the test altogether might lead to less accountability and lower expectations for physical education, at a time when 30 percent of California adolescents are overweight or obese, according to the Data Center for Child and Adolescent Health.”

Teacher training

The AP (3/2, Smith) reports the Virginia General Assembly “passed a bill that will require full-time teachers to complete mental health awareness training, though some advocates are split on how the training should be implemented.” The bill requires school boards “adopt and implement policies for the training, which can be completed online. School boards may contract the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, a community services board, a behavioral health authority, a nonprofit organization, or other certified trainer to provide such training.”

Special Needs Students

The Seventy Four (3/2, Eden) reports on the idea of “full inclusion.” Schools for children with behavioral and emotional issues can be “very expensive,” so it’s “hardly surprising that a school district looking to contain costs would not default to transferring students with” such “disabilities to specialized schools like Sharp-Leadenhall.” But money is “only part of the reason.” The other part “lies in the ethos of ‘full inclusion,’ the reigning presumption in special education that keeping students in traditional settings is inherently good and placing them in separate settings is inherently bad.” Yet, taken together, “these two forces encourage district bureaucrats to cloak the shortchanging of students with disabilities with social justice rhetoric.”

The AP (3/2) reports Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) on Monday “signed into law a bill supported by disability rights advocates and parents that would establish more procedures for when schools restrain a student or place them in seclusion.” The state Department of Public Instruction is now “required to track the incidences and schools have to inform parents if their student are ever secluded or restrained. The law also requires additional training for school staff on how to calm students before they become violent, and any door or room being used for seclusion cannot have a lock.”

The Milwaukee (WI) Journal Sentinel (3/2) reports the new law “comes as lawmakers and student advocates across the country push for fresh scrutiny on schools’ policies to manage student behavior in the wake of a Chicago Tribune and ProPublica Illinois investigation that found schools were illegally separating children from their peers.”

School Funding

The Baltimore Business Journal (3/2, Wilen, Subscription Publication) reports more than 100 Maryland business owners and advocates urged state lawmakers “to reject a proposal to expand the state sales tax to services, saying it would have a crippling effect on the local economy.” House Bill 1628 would lower the state sales tax from 6 percent to 5 percent while expanding it to more services. According to Del. Eric Leudtke, the bill sponsor’s, “the proposal would make Maryland’s taxes more fair while also providing billions of dollars for public education reforms.” Business advocates said the proposed tax on services “would be regressive and disproportionately affect small businesses and their customers.”